The Age - January 8, 2010
Farewell for 'ridiculous, singular, charismatic individual'
ABOUT 500 mourners gathered in St Kilda yesterday to hear friends and lovers celebrate the life of "a charming, dignified, regal man", guitarist Rowland S. Howard, who died last week, aged 50, from liver cancer.
It resembled a scene from cult 1980s film Dogs in Space as a who's who of Melbourne's punk rock scene — including Dogs in Space director Richard Lowenstein and playwright Sam Sejavka, upon whose life the film was based — joined music fans at St Kilda's Sacred Heart church for a public service.
Howard, a guitarist in Nick Cave's punk bands the Boys Next Door and the Birthday Party before forming his own bands Crime and the City Solution, and These Immortal Souls, is best remembered for his unique, influential guitar style and for writing Shivers, one of the Boys Next Door's biggest hits.
Among those paying respects were Mushroom Records boss Michael Gudinski, producer Tony Cohen, Mick Harvey, former member of Nick Cave's band the Bad Seeds, Dave Graney, Hugo Race and many other stalwarts of the Melbourne scene.
Howard's white coffin was covered in red roses, his beloved Fender Jaguar guitar propped against it.
Former long-term girlfriend and bandmate Genevieve McGuckin delivered a moving eulogy, describing Howard as a "ridiculous, singular, charismatic individual" with "a wicked talent . . . and as dapper as the devil".
Howard's brother Harry — a bandmate in Crime and the City Solution and These Immortal Souls — also spoke, praising the guitarist's "quest to banish banality in music" with his "gorgeously terrifying sound".
Mick Harvey remembered Howard's "great wit" and their enduring friendship.
Nick Cave, who lives in the UK, did not attend, but sent a message.
"Every now and then comes along a person whose style informs your own style and for me, Rowland was that person.The first time I saw him play, it was clear he was a phenomenal talent," Cave's eulogy read.
"We went our separate ways, but I have always loved Rowland — his talent, his great humour and his generous heart. He was a good friend and it was a privilege to have worked with him and to have been in his sphere of influence. I will miss him very much."
Another absent friend was film director Andrew Dominik, of Chopper fame, who revealed that it was Howard who talked him into writing the screenplay for the 2007 hit film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
In a manner befitting a rock star, Sacred Heart reverberated with the feedback-drenched sound of Howard's song Autoluminescent, from his first solo album, a refrain of which was also played as his coffin was carried out.
Fans of Howard's distinctive guitar style will be pleased to know that he died with a plectrum in his pocket.
- Kylie Northover